I Am Encouraged!


Mid afternoon today, Carol and I returned from Tulsa, Oklahoma and the Tulsa Workshop. The Tulsa Workshop is an annual gathering of Church of Christ people who meet for worship, including great singing and preaching, and a great exhibit hall filled with booths promoting Christian schools, children’s homes, missions, ministries, church architects, publishers, etc. and several sellers of Christians trinkets.

This was my second year to attend and I enjoyed it just as much as last year. Meeting friends I made last year and making new ones were highlights of our experience. It was very encouraging to have several people introduce themselves as Grace Digest readers. I was literally shocked when one very well-known preacher, one of the key-note speakers, told me “I read your stuff and really like it…“. It just shows to go you that you never know!

It was especially nice to meet Al Maxey, a New Mexico preacher and prolific writer and thinker. I have admired his work and we had corresponded a few times but I was delighted to meet him and hear him speak three times. He speaks as well as he writes and his messages were timely and much needed.

I was able to spend time with and share a meal with Edward Fudge, who has become a special friend and mentor, and one of the best men I know, relief worker Mike Baumgartner. Dr. Joneal Kirby the founder of Heart to Home Ministries, and her assistant Lauren Vincent were also at the table. Other friends to numerous to mention were there and we enjoyed their company and their ministries during those days.

In my view, the most encouraging and exciting thing about our trip to the Tulsa Workshop this year was the preaching. Everyone I heard speak lifted up the Lord Jesus Christ and made clear that He alone can save a sinner from their sins. Frankly, in some Church of Christ gatherings you are likely to hear more about the Church of Christ than the Christ of the Church but not this time. The message of grace is sweeping across the churches like a prairie fire and again and again God’s grace, demonstrated in Christ Jesus our Lord, was reinforced by each key-note speaker I heard.

Perhaps, just perhaps, New Testament Christianity is finally being restored! I love the ancient plea “We are only Christians but not the only Christians“. It is a theme I can embrace and wear with pride. I don’t completely agree with everything any Christian group teaches but I have found in the Restoration Movement some dear followers of Jesus with whom I expect to be in fellowship with eternally. Every group has its baggage, some history they would like to forget, and a scattering of knuckleheads that are at best troublesome.

I will quickly admit that I am not infallible, the needle on my sanctification gauge is not to the “full” mark, and far too often I don’t love like I should and still call myself a follower of Jesus. I and you are works in progress. On our way toward being like Jesus may each of us major on Jesus and minor on everything else and love everyone in his stead. Love them ’til they ask us why!

Thanks for reading Grace Digest. I sincerely hope it is a blessing and honors Christ.

Agape’

Royce

The Exclusivisity of Jesus for Salvation


(From the archives, Jan 26, ’07)

“If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater; for this is the witness of God which He has testified of His Son. He who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself; he who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed the testimony that God has given of His Son. And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.

He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.” (1 John 5:9-13 NKJV)

John’s record sounds very much like Jesus’ own words when He said,

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.” (John 3:16-21 NKJV)

The truth is clear. Men are given eternal life based wholly upon what they have done about Jesus. And, the text is also very clear that those who refuse to take God at His word do so because they love their sin, or to put it another way, they refuse to repent. Those who go to the light, simply believing what God has said about Jesus and trusting on him, have eternal life and will not ever be condemned again.

Salvation is not found in living right, in any church on earth, in aligning with a religeous system, or any other way than by taking God at His word and trusting Jesus and Him only. Those who try to get into the kingdom any other way are rejected and will not be saved in the end unless they repent and come to Christ.

Who can God save? Whosoever will let him come.  Does God need my assistance to save? No. Can God extend His love and forgiveness to anyone on the planet at any time He chooses? Yes.

“When we all get to heaven we will sing and shout the victory”. And, every last one there will be saved by the person and work of Jesus and not by our own doing. “There is no other name given among men whereby we must be saved”. Simply put, it is Christ or condemnation. Have you believed God’s record or have you believed the “witness of men”? Trust Christ today.

Grace to you,
Royce Ogle

“Gospel” Up Close and Personal #2


The “gospel” is the story of Christ’s work on behalf of sinful people like you and me. I have been immersed in Bible language all of my life and for perhaps now over a half century have studied the scriptures, so this is very familiar language. And, I assume it is to almost all of my readers. But, it isn’t to everyone.

Let’s suppose I find myself conversing with a guy with no church background, who didn’t grow up in the South as I did, and was unfamiliar with biblical lingo. Who is Christ to that man? Who is he to you? Was he just another of the dozens of colorful characters whom we find on the pages of our Bibles? Was he only one of many teachers, rabbi’s,  or religious leaders of the first century in the middle east?

“Christ” died. He was the Messiah of God foretold by the prophets of old, the One who would come to save the people from their sins. He was the Lamb of God who would take away the sins of the world of whom John the Baptist preached. He was the One whose birth announcement said “God with us!”. He had no human father, he was conceived in a young virgin’s womb by the Holy Spirit of God. He was both man and God.

He is the Creator of all that is and by His power every molecule keeps it’s assigned place. He  is the exact representation of the Godhead and the fullness of His glory. Before the earth was formed He is. He humbled himself and took the lowly place of a man, perfectly kept all of God’s laws, and though tempted as we are, never sinned even once.

His life on earth was one of doing only good. He went about healing the sick, restoring sight to the blind, raising the dead, loving the most unlovely, and reaching out to the untouchables. He alone has all power in heaven and in earth. His name is above every named that can be named and one day every creature will bow admitting his Lordship over all creation. Every man, woman, and child will one day be judged by this one man, The God-man Jesus Christ our Lord. It was this man who died, and he did it for you.

Royce

Christmas, The Virgin Birth of Jesus


We have many details in the Bible about the blessed event of Jesus’ birth, many, hundreds of years old. And the details matter. For you see, if we can’t believe the record of Jesus humble birth given in Scripture the whole idea of Christianity falls like a house of cards.

One detail that stands out among the rest is that he was born of a virgin. His mother conceived, carried and delivered a baby and had never had sexual relations with a man. The Holy Spirit of God fertilized an egg in this chosen girl, Mary, and she delivered the Son of God.

He was and is “The Son of God” in the most literal sense it can be stated. He had no human father. As we would say it in today’s vernacular “His birth father was God”. It is this miraculous conception that makes Jesus unique among all humans. Why is it important?

When Adam made the willing choice to disobey God, his rebellion not only put him at odds with God but the whole human race. The final judgment for sin is death. Adams transgression ushered in both physical and spiritual death and every decedent of Adam bears the curse of sin.

“Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned…” (Romans 5:12)

Jesus, with no human father, broke the curse of sin and now the good news follows the above passage saying:

“For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.” (Romans 5:19)

Jesus is referred to as the “new Adam”, the representative of those who would be born again, freed from the curse of sin (death) because of his perfect obedience.

Had Jesus had a human father he would have been no more than his peers growing up in Nazareth, and in spite of his best efforts he would have transgressed God’s law, on purpose, as we all do. But, he did not have a human father, his father is God and he alone is sinless, always obedient to God’s demands, and became the perfect, spotless, unblemished, sacrificial lamb who would give himself as payment for the sins of the world.

It is this unique man, Christ Jesus our Lord who alone could say “I am the Resurrection and the Life”. The babe of Bethlehem is now the one who sits at the right hand of the Father, his work done. Sin, death, hell, and the grave are defeated by the once for all time, once for all people offering, of Jesus. His blood is sufficient to make the most wicked pure and to stay the wrath of God against sin.

As we celebrate the birth of Jesus. Let us never forget he was born to die. Without his death, burial, and resurrection his birth would be meaningless. But God in his providential wisdom made all the pieces fit. Prophecy fulfilled, God’s demand for perfect righteousness fully met, the fury of his wrath against sin fully executed, all culminating in the redemptive work of the babe of Bethlehem.

It is because of this God-man, Jesus Christ our Lord who is called “God with us”, we can confidently proclaim to every listening ear “Merry Christmas” a Saviour was born!

May the joy born of faith in the Christ fill your hearts and overflow into the lives of those you love in these days of family gatherings and celebration of God’s love gift to humanity.

Royce